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Pastor Favour Asante made Glasgow her home after moving from Ghana in 2001. She is a pastor at the Greater Grace Apostolic Church in Pollockshaws, Glasgow. When she first met Waverley Care in 2010, she admits she knew very little about HIV beyond the stigma and myths that continue to surround the condition. She is now a supporter of our African Health Project’s Health in Faith work, which is taking conversations about HIV and sexual health to the heart of African Communities.
Can you tell us how you first came into contact with Waverley Care?
I first came across Waverley Care in 2010. I was invited to an event in Paisley that [African Health Project Senior Manager] Mildred was also at. My choir was ministering there, and our performance prompted Mildred to get in touch.
She got my number and gave me a call to talk about the work of the African Health Project. She said that there were activities which would be of benefit to our congregation and our church. We exchanged numbers and took it from there. She started to invite me along to events and programmes that Waverley Care organised.
At that time did you know anything about Waverley Care and our work?
No, I didn’t. It was Mildred who first started to tell me about the work. I was aware of HIV but I didn’t know too much about it.
Initially, I thought that HIV could be spread by sharing things like cups and cutlery, or using the same bathrooms. They are fairly common myths in the African community. The education that Waverley Care has given to me, and also my family and the wider congregation, has been a huge benefit. We now know a lot more about the condition and how it’s transmitted.
What kinds of work has Waverley Care taken part in with your church?
There have been all kinds of things. Since we first met them, we’ve attended events on HIV awareness, we’ve taken part in training and they have come to our church a few times to offer testing. One of the messages they’ve really tried to get across is the importance of regular testing so people know their HIV status.
How did members of the congregation react to an HIV charity working with their church?
I think that most people were thinking, ‘why are they talking about HIV here?’ But in every organisation, if the leader takes a step, it encourages the rest to follow. When I was able to stand up and say, ‘I’ve met these people and they have opened my eyes. I want you all to benefit too’ people were willing to put their trust in that.
Have you spoken about your work with Waverley Care to other pastors and churches?
Yes, I recently spoke to friends who are pastors in the Gorbals and Ruchazie (both in Glasgow). They are new churches and I’m encouraging Waverley Care to reach out to them. I want these churches to get involved so that their congregations can become more HIV aware. When you’ve benefited from something that is good, you want to share it with others. We need to promote the work that Waverley Care is doing.
Do you think that attitudes to HIV are changing in Glasgow’s African communities?
Yes, I would say so. Before, there was a huge amount of stigma around HIV and people would be singled out and avoided. Now, people are beginning to embrace those living with HIV. They know more about HIV and that they can socialise and interact with people without any fear.
What role do you think faith leaders can play in HIV awareness?
I think that faith leaders can work together to find a way to promote what we have learned from Waverley Care. I believe that faith works together with medication. If someone is living with HIV, we can pray for them, but they also need medication to treat the condition. We can help people to access that support through Waverley Care.
What would you say to anyone who was considering supporting Waverley Care?
If I had money, I would give it to Waverley Care to help with the fantastic work they do. The more support that we can give as faith communities, the better.
Does your role as a pastor take up all of your time?
I work three days in the church, but I’d say it’s a full time role. I take calls from people in all kinds of situations – people in hospital, people in trouble, I get the call and see it as my responsibility to visit them and help them to solve the challenges they face.
I see it as my role to be there for the whole community, not only the people who come to my church. I’ll take you back to the scripture. Jesus commanded us ‘Go ye into the world, and preach the gospel.’ Preaching the gospel can mean many things – showing love and caring for others. My job is not only to look after Christians, but to support anyone in need.
I also work for East Renfrewshire Council as a home care worker, supporting people. Caring and helping people to build their confidence and live well is something that I ‘m passionate about.
Away from work, what do you do in your spare time?
To be honest, I’m always busy. It’s exhausting! When I’m not working, I’m resting or studying to gain knowledge to pass on to others.
What is your favourite food?
I love food! I love my African dishes because of the spices, they’re very hot! Things like jollof rice (a spicy dish of rice and chicken with a chilli and ginger base originating in West Africa) and what we call fufu (a starchy accompaniment, similar to mashed potatoes), eaten with vegetables or meat.
Do you watch much TV?
I used to love watching it but nowadays I don’t really have the time. The one thing I do watch and listen to are gospel channels and YouTube videos. I use them to help me prepare my message for church. Sometimes though, I’ll sit with my little girl to watch one of her programmes.
What’s your favourite book?
It would have to be the Bible! I am always reading passages and referring back to it. I also like to read books by men and women of God about their faith. These books help me in my ministry.
Do you like to travel?
I’m from Ghana and travel across quite often. I’m hoping to go later in the year. I also travel to other parts of the continent. The trips are a chance to take a break and catch up with people who are still living over there. On my next trip, I’m hoping to travel from hospital to hospital, supporting people who are vulnerable. That’s my dream
Right now, I’m in the middle of packing for a trip to Israel. I’m going with a group for a tour of Holy sites in Jerusalem.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three luxuries would you bring with you?
I couldn’t go without my Bible. I’d also like a notebook and a pen. As I read, new thoughts occur to me and I want to write them down so that I can pass them on. Those three things are very essential to me.
Who inspires you?
In this world? There are many great people that I respect. One that stands out is Joyce Meyer. She’s a woman of 70 years, yet she is travelling to Africa and further afield, preaching the gospel and supporting vulnerable people. I look at her and think, that is what I want to achieve. I’d like to take the knowledge I’ve learned from Waverley Care and take that to communities in Africa.